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college and career expo
Posted in on April 4, 2024

The 2024 College and Career Expo was a success!

Jade Rojas is only a 16-year-old junior at Lamar High School. But she demonstrates the maturity and focus of a doctoral student while contemplating life after she graduates from the north Arlington campus in 2025.

Having witnessed family members battle life-threatening illnesses, Rojas soon hopes to study both nursing and business to “implement more holistic processes,” and to make healthcare costs more manageable. She said her mother, Jessica Gonzalez – a longtime environmental health and safety manager – has also influenced her ambition.

“I would like to follow up in her footsteps and develop new systems,” Rojas said.

Eager to find the right higher institution for her aspirations, Rojas simply couldn’t miss Arlington ISD’s College and Career Expo last week. It was the first time that she had attended the annual fair, which this year took place at the Arlington ISD Athletics Center. Inside the new state-of-the art gymnasium, representatives from dozens of colleges and businesses were thrilled to share invaluable information with hundreds of students and parents

Representatives from Baylor University, Louisiana Tech University, the University of Missouri and many more institutions were there to recruit students. Among the HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) present were east Texas’ Wiley University, Mississippi’s Jackson State University and Louisiana’s Grambling State University.

Texas Southern University’s Essence Mendenhall was excited to share with Rojas information about the campus located in Houston. Rojas and many other students impressed Mendenhall – the school’s Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington recruitment coordinator – with great questions about the academic and social programs offered at her university.

Six years ago, the district began offering the expo – the first one held was at Sam Houston High School –before growing into the large, district-wide event that it is today. Each year, it takes more than 100 volunteers to help run the event. Like other first-time vendors, Mendenhall praised Arlington ISD and its sponsors, stating that the expo was “well organized.”

“I appreciate all of the staff continuing to come around and make sure we have all the drinks, snacks – anything that we needed,” Mendenhall said. “You can clearly see the time and the effort that they put into this.”

So much to see

At the expo, numerous employers, business owners, organizations and universities manned booths with posters, giveaway materials and trinkets. Students donned their professional attire and brought their resumes to discuss jobs and even conduct on-site interviews for part-time, full-time or post-graduation work. Parents received detailed guidance on admissions, testing, academic scholarships and financial aid.

Some sat in on presentations about athletic recruiting and the scholarship process for high school athletes. Translation services for Spanish-speaking parents and students was also available to help throughout the event. Co-sponsored by inspirED, a higher education servicing organization, the expo is designed to help students get information from colleges and find schools that they may not have ever heard of before. It also helps students learn what a school’s admissions department requires or what an employer wants.

Students and parents also had a chance to learn about opportunities that will allow them to begin working through various alternative higher education programs. For instance, Dominique Lester promoted Pure Dental Assistant Academy as an affordable alternative to four-year universities. Lester, a job placement specialist and instructor for the school – a sister company of Mint Dentistry – explained that it involves a 7-week course of lectures and hands-on clinical training.

Tuition for the school, which has locations in Irving, Mesquite and Houston is $3,000, although each student is given a $1,000 scholarship. Applicants only need to have a high school diploma or GED with a background check. Lester said the academy’s staff prepares students to become state-licensed and assists with job placement after their course ends.

“We’re trying to get as many dental assistants as possible a job,” Lester boasted.

Carole Nasr, admissions representative for L Makeup Institute, also stressed to students that they can find success outside of the traditional classroom setting. Her company, which opened along the Las Vegas strip in 2010, has been training many young adults to become professional makeup artists. The school opened a location in Southlake in 2020. Its graduates work in bridal, salon, fashion, movies, theatrical, production and retail cosmetics industries.

“It is not a saturated market for makeup artists because there are so many different fields within makeup artistry,” Nasr said while manning a table that featured a prosthetic headpiece of Groot from “Guardian of the Galaxy” film series for students to view and touch.

To go or to stay?

Like Nasr, Amber Massey, assistant dean of admissions for Hofstra University in New York, was attending the expo for the first time. She, too, is trying to get students to broaden their horizons. While her school is a more traditional one, Massey flew in from Long Island to urge students to consider enrolling into her private institution. She said it would give them the best of both worlds: a school with a close-knit feel and close proximity to New York’s metropolitan experiences.

On the contrary, University of Texas at Arlington’s Josh Knight stressed to students that there is nothing like home. His table was among nine UTA tables. An academic recruiter for the college of liberal arts, Knight said, “We like to come out in force.”

“We want our kids to choose UTA,” Knight said, explaining to students how they can forgo room and board costs while obtaining an education from a “Tier 1” school.

Ginger Midkiff and her three children – Faith, Hope and Shane – spent a significant amount of time at UTA’s engineering table. She was already aware that Hope, a Martin High School freshman, was considering becomin

g an education major at UTA. During the expo, Faith spent time convincing Shane, a seventh grader at Boles, to take up mechanical engineering as he wants to be an inventor.

“All of them are very interested in trying to figure out what they want to do,” Ginger Midkiff said. “They all kind of have their path that they are thinking about. So they were really excited about coming out here to look at all of the different colleges and to get information on them.”

Filling in the gap

Parents weren’t the only ones pushing for higher education while at the expo. After teaching science for 23 years at Gunn Junior High and Fine Arts and Dual Language Academy, Shelli McGovern began teaching AVID two years ago. In her position, she works to foster a family environment to further enrich her 106 students’ support network for college and career readiness. AVID also prepares

 students for PSAT/SAT tests, college applications/essays, FAFSA paperwork and other hard-to-tackle aspects of getting into college.

While at the fair, McGovern said she received “a lot of goodies,” referring to information pamphlets that her students can use to learn about college and career programs.

“I missed out on the college fair last year,” McGovern said. “I really wanted to see it for myself so I could give my students and their parents a better idea of what to gain from attending the Expo.

“One bonus for me was that several college and career programs offered to come out and speak to my classes next year!” she added.